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Global Health Design

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Pursuing a long-time interest in global health, Rajen Kumar enrolled during his senior year in Design for Global Health: Sustainable Technologies for the Developing World, a course taught by Assistant Professor Kathleen Sienko. Throughout the semester, Kumar and his classmates explored current global health challenges and assessed best and worst practices regarding technology design principles that address these problems. The class developed case studies for technologies targeting the top ten causes of death in low- and middle-income countries. A subset of the case studies generated was published in a recent report by the World Health Organization.

Students also participated in a clinical immersion experience in Nicaragua during spring break. There, Kumar and classmates observed clinicians at rural, district and urban hospitals to gain an understanding of the challenges specific to these settings.

Kumar also traveled to Ghana last August while participating in one of Sienko's cocreative design programs that provides students an opportunity to complete a design project scoping exercise in the summer preceding their senior year. Students gain global learning experiences that emphasize co-creative design principles by engaging end users throughout the entire design process. The program is part of the College's Minor in Multidisciplinary Design: Specialization in Global Health Design, developed by Sienko and Aileen Huang-Saad of Biomedical Engineering

Kumar joined a group of 12 multidisciplinary students conducting observations in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi, Ghana. As a result of their month-long immersion experience, Kumar and his team identified the need for a blood salvage device that is appropriate for resource-limited settings and that can be operated by a health care provider to collect, filter and transfuse blood in the event of life-threatening bleeding. Such a technology would address the current lack of donated blood and improve patient outcomes, particularly in the case of ruptured ectopic pregnancies. Kumar's team developed an entirely mechanical and reusable device that salvages and filters a patient's blood for reinfusion.

Students spent two semesters at U-M designing a prototype, and Kumar's team returned to Ghana over winter break to obtain feedback from local health professionals and conduct basic validation studies. The students incorporated this feedback into a new design and have formed a company to further pursue the device as a commercial product.

“The global health technologies that work the best usually come out of brainstorming at field sites and collaborative design with end users,” said Kumar, who will graduate in December 2011 with a master's degree in ME. He plans to pursue a career in medical devices with a focus on global health. “This,” he said, “is where I can make an impact.”